Tax and Estate Planning

Career Path Introduction

Tax attorneys help clients navigate the complex and constantly changing world of federal, state and local tax laws. Estate planning attorneys help clients plan for the distribution of their assets after death.

Practice areas include corporate taxation, international taxation, partnership taxation, employee benefits and retirement plans, nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations, trusts, and personal estate and tax planning.

Estate and tax lawyers provide legal and business advice to a wide variety of clients. Many corporations have in-house tax specialists who must be familiar with the tax law and reporting norms of numerous countries and all the states. On the other hand, many small-firm practitioners concentrate on providing business tax planning to a relatively small group of clients, often small business owners. Generally, estate planners work exclusively with individuals.


Tax attorneys can be found in law firms, corporate tax and legal departments, accounting and auditing firms, the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Department of Justice, and state and municipal revenue departments. Estate planning attorneys can be found in the trust and estate practices of law firms, solo practices and banks.

During a typical day, tax attorneys may advise corporate clients on the tax implications of potential business transactions, help entrepreneurs structure new companies, or counsel companies on changes in tax law. They may help nonprofits apply for and maintain their tax-exempt status. Tax controversy attorneys may represent clients before the IRS or the courts.

IRS attorneys in the Criminal Investigation Division may advise investigators on legal issues related to surveillance, undercover operations, search warrants, and commencement of forfeiture. They may also decide which cases to refer to the U.S. Justice Department.

Estate planning attorneys may draft wills and trusts or help parents plan for the care of minor children or developmentally disabled adult children. They may represent the executor of an estate during the probate process or challenge the validity of a will in Probate Court. They may advise family business owners on succession planning or counsel clients on making charitable distributions from their estates.

Tax and estate attorneys benefit from strong interpersonal and communications skills, exceptional attention to detail, and the ability to work well on teams. Many tax attorneys have accounting backgrounds, but others can benefit from college-level accounting classes.

During law school, students may extern with the IRS or state revenue departments; work as summer associates in a law firm's estate planning or tax practice; or clerk in an accounting firm's tax practice.

Related Chicago-Kent offerings:

Students interested in tax and estate planning can choose from a wide array of related seminars and electives, including Tax and Budget Policy, Personal Income Tax, Accounting and Finance for Lawyers, and Tax Planning for International Business.

Related: Chicago-Kent also offers an LL.M. in Taxation as well as a joint degree program whereby a student can earn both a J.D. and an LL.M. in Taxation on an accelerated basis.


Student Organizations

The Corporate Law Society is committed to promoting the study of corporate law and to preparing its members for successful careers in practice areas such as business planning, financial services, securities regulation, real estate, and tax law.